Germany has called terrorism accusations against one of its citizens in Turkey absurd and demanded the “immediate release” of the activist.

“The Turkish government needs to immediately and directly hear the German government’s outrage and incomprehension as well as its crystal-clear expectations in the case of Peter Steudtner, and this time without diplomatic niceties,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said.

After a meeting Wednesday with Turkey’s ambassador, Schaefer said he told the envoy “in no uncertain terms” the detention of Steudtner was “unacceptable” and said the German sentiment would be delivered to Ankara.

Turkey earlier this month jailed six human-rights activists, including Amnesty International’s Turkey chief, for allegedly aiding terrorists.

Police arrested the six during a raid on a hotel on the island of Buyukada on July 5, during a digital security workshop. On Tuesday a court in Istanbul ordered them to remain behind bars until a trial.

Human rights

Andrew Gardner, a researcher for Amnesty in Turkey, told VOA he believes the detained individuals were targeted solely for their work in human rights, and he called their detention an attack against “the whole of human rights civil society in Turkey.”

“It is no exaggeration to say if this is allowed to pass, then none of us in Turkey have security and all of us working here could face the same in the days to come,” he said.

In addition to Amnesty’s director of operations in Turkey, Idil Eser, and Steudtner, Swiss human-rights workers also were among the detainees.

Turkish media reports said the six are accused of having been in contact with Kurdish and leftist militants, and suspected members of the movement led by exiled Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen — once President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s close ally, but now at the top of the Turkish government’s most-wanted list.

Turkey blames Gulen, a religious scholar who has lived in obscurity in the United States for decades, for last year’s failed coup. The aged cleric denies the charges against him.

The United States also condemned the arrests.

“Prosecutions like these with little evidence or transparency undermine Turkey’s rule of law and the country’s obligation to respect individual rights,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters.

State of emergency

The U.S. urged Turkey to drop the charges, free the six prisoners, and lift provisions of the country’s state of emergency that allow what the U.S. spokeswoman called the “indiscriminate prosecutions of individuals.”

Turkey this week extended its post-coup state of emergency three more months, shortly after voters narrowly approved a referendum to amend the constitution and expand President Erdogan’s powers.

U.S. President Donald Trump congratulated Erdogan on his referendum victory, but many European Union leaders fear the impending constitutional changes will further erode human rights and free speech in Turkey and muzzle the opposition.

More than 50,000 people have been arrested during a yearlong crackdown since last year’s coup. In addition, 110,000 civil servants, members of the military and law enforcement agencies were dismissed for either participating in the coup or actively sympathizing with the plotters.

Tan Cetin of VOA’s Turkish Service contributed to this report.


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